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  • In the Presence of Mine Enemies

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on May 27th, 2018 (All posts by )

    This week, I happened on a movie – Woman in Gold from a couple of years back. The movie starred Helen Mirren, who vanished so utterly into the part of an elderly Viennese Jewish refugee, Maria Altmann, that there was no trace of Helen Mirren visible – the way that good acting should be, but rarely is. Briefly, the movie concerned Maria Altmann’s epic legal quest to have a famous and insanely valuable portrait of her Aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer painted in by Gustav Klimt in the early years of the twentieth century – a painting which had been looted by the Nazis – returned to her. The painting gravitated into the possession of the Austrian government, from which it was eventually pried by dint of persistent and effective legal action. A decent movie overall, BTW. But what struck me in watching it was how much the mannerisms, the accent, the character of Maria Altmann reminded me of a certain family friend, a woman of the same vintage, and similar background; Viennese, of a prosperous family who also ran afoul of the Nazis, and finished up living in Southern California. I wonder if Lainie and Maria Altmann knew each other, back in the day? Lainie lived in the right part of town and had the kind of income and background to have patronized Maria Altmann’s upscale boutique. Never know now, I guess. But I sought out the text of an early post on Sgt. Stryker that I wrote about Lainie’s rescuing angel. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Blogging, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Holidays | 1 Comment »

    Chicagoboyz Waiting Room Series: 9

    Posted by Jonathan on May 26th, 2018 (All posts by )

    the opposition

     

    Posted in Photos, Waiting Rooms | No Comments »

    Chicago Boyz Waiting Room Series: 8

    Posted by Jonathan on May 24th, 2018 (All posts by )

    what if no one waits

     

     

    Posted in Photos, Waiting Rooms | 5 Comments »

    The Toughest Job in America?

    Posted by David Foster on May 24th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Admiral William McRaven, who is retiring as Chancellor of the University of Texas system, asserted that  “Leading a university or health institution is ‘the toughest job in the nation.'”

    McRaven was for many years a SEAL leader, with his career culminating in planning and overseeing the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

    I’d suggest that, if leading a university (and for this post, I’ll be focusing on that part of the admiral’s statement rather than the healthcare part) is harder that leading major special-forces operations against determined enemies…then something is very wrong.

    Mind you, I’m not saying he’s incorrect.  Indeed, I’d go further: except for certain niche institutions, the job of university president or chancellor may now not just be difficult, but impossible.  Impossible, that is, if you look at success in terms of generating reasonable positive educational results within a reasonably positive culture, not just keeping one’s job.

    And this situation is largely the result of the poor performance of several generations of previous university administrators. There has been overselling of what universities are offering..increasingly including graduate studies…as the only key to success in American societies.  There has been encouragement of students to sign up for very large loans, without the kind of disclosure of risks that would be required for any other kind of large investment; coupled with the first point, this has resulted in many people being on campus who shouldn’t be there at all and/or aren’t taking their education very seriously. There has been in many cases a lack of attention to the mission of teaching.  There has been a lack of respect for civil liberties of both students and professors, a tolerance of intimidation tactics by students, professors, and outside parties, and an encouragement of organizations and ‘fields of study’ that are by their very nature hostile to the notion of an academic community.  And there has been little pushback against intrusive regulation from government, as long as funding is at stake.

    True, not all university administrators have conducted themselves in the manner described above, but enough have that American higher education as a whole has become increasingly toxic.  And when a culture has become sufficiently toxic, it is very difficult for even the best leader to implement meaningful change.

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    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Organizational Analysis, Texas, War and Peace | 26 Comments »

    Cotton Candy Man

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on May 22nd, 2018 (All posts by )

    So help me dog, I was never able to figure the appeal of B. Obama, either when he first hove onto the political scene, or when he was elected, and reelected. He seemed to me, from the first and at a distance to be just a pleasantly and superficially-cultured nullity, with the not-uncommon ability to deliver inspiring, soaring speeches from words put in front of him, just like any A- or B-list actor I could name. He looked good, sounded good … and that was all there was to him, as far as concrete accomplishments went. Again, like any good actor – he looked the part that he was supposed to play, no matter that the actual legislative resume was vanishingly thin of substantive accomplishments.
    Perhaps that was all that was required of him, that he look and sound the part. And what does that make of the sense and sensibility of those who voted for him, cheered him on enthusiastically, the establishment media who rolled his Juggernaut over the finish line, and supported him in eight years of trying his best to turn the United States into some nasty South American socialist dump, ruled in turns by a coterie of the elite, and their ambitious throne-sniffers? David Brooks, the token conservative at the National Paper of Record, got all thrilled and man-crushy, adoring the perfect crease of Obama’s trousers. This may live in infamy as the shallowest, stupidest thing that our Miss Brooksie has ever written, against considerable competition. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Americas, Arts & Letters, Blogging, Current Events, Media, Obama | 33 Comments »

    “. . . the significant, blood-sport destruction of my business . . .”

    Posted by Jonathan on May 22nd, 2018 (All posts by )

    Leon Cooperman: Two changes that could help fix what is wrong with our regulatory process:

    It seems logically manifest to me that something transpired between September 2016 and March 2017 that led to the Commission’s dramatically downwardly-revised settlement offer. Despite numerous attempts to ferret it out, I have been unsuccessful in getting a response, either from the current chairman or from his predecessor who oversaw my case (and who told me, when I saw her at a conference after she left office, that even innocent people often find settling with the government preferable to hazarding the system). As an American taxpayer, I believe that I deserve an answer to my question. And as an analytical person, it is hard for me to reconcile the significant, blood-sport destruction of my business that this matter has occasioned without understanding the dynamics behind the resolution from the Commission’s perspective.

    “Something transpired between September 2016 and March 2017” that led the SEC to dial back the brutality of its regulatory attack on Mr. Cooperman’s firm. I wonder what that something could have been?

    Elections have consequences. The Obama administration was so openly hostile to business, and so casually willing to use its power to reward allies and punish critics, that prominent business people were reluctant to criticize the Administration publicly, especially in the early days before the 2010 elections. If I recall, Mr. Cooperman was more courageous than most of his contemporaries in expressing public concern about Mr. Obama’s policies.

    As the man said, this is how you get more Trump.

     

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crony Capitalism, Law, Obama, Politics, Trump | 1 Comment »

    Chicago Boyz Waiting Room Series: 7

    Posted by Jonathan on May 21st, 2018 (All posts by )

    suspense

     

     

    Posted in Photos, Waiting Rooms | 5 Comments »

    “Meet Margaret Ball”

    Posted by Jonathan on May 20th, 2018 (All posts by )

    An interview with SF author and Chicago Boyz contributor Margaret Ball. Worth reading.

    Margaret’s Amazon author page is here.

     

    Posted in Book Notes | 1 Comment »

    THE DEEP STATE CIVIL WAR AND THE COUP D’ETAT AGAINST PRESIDENT TRUMP

    Posted by Trent Telenko on May 20th, 2018 (All posts by )

    In case you all had not noticed, a -LOT- of what is going on in the news between the Deep State and Pres. Trump here in the USA is a intra-Deep State factional Civil War over Iran.

    In short — It’s Iran, STUPID!

    This can be shown via the fact that the Obama “Iran Nuclear Deal” faction used the full powers of the FISA counter-intelligence to ram the Iran deal through Congress in 2015. (See the text immediately below and the Tablet on-line magazine link to their April 2017 article on the subject)

    In a December 29, 2015 article, The Wall Street Journal described how the Obama administration had conducted surveillance on Israeli officials to understand how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, like Ambassador Ron Dermer, intended to fight the Iran Deal. The Journal reported that the targeting “also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups.”

    .

    and

    .

    The reason the prior abuse of the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus is clear only now is because the Russia campaign has illuminated it. As The New York Times reported last month, the administration distributed the intelligence gathered on the Trump transition team widely throughout government agencies, after it had changed the rules on distributing intercepted communications. The point of distributing the information so widely was to “preserve it,” the administration and its friends in the press explained—“preserve” being a euphemism for “leak.” The Obama team seems not to have understood that in proliferating that material they have exposed themselves to risk, by creating a potential criminal trail that may expose systematic abuse of foreign-intelligence collection.

    Now you know why General Flynn was under counter-intelligence surveillance by the Asst. AG Sally Yates at the DoJ and Andrew McCabe at FBI Counter-Intelligence in 2015.

    The Obama Administration was afraid ex-Defense Intelligence Agency head Gen Flynn would be called to testify before Congress about how CIA Chief Brennen and DNI Clapper were cooking the intelligence books on Iran and ISIS.

    It turned out the illegal FISA surveillance by the Obama Administration got enough dirt on Congressional leaders to prevent that from happening.

    The Deep State’s Iran Deal factional plans might have worked if Trump had lost…but he didn’t.

    Everything regards the spying on the Trump campaign and attempted coup d’etat by special council/lawfare/impeachment against President Trump is about hiding the facts of that Iran Nuclear Deal from the American people and law enforcement.

    But while the Obama/Iran Nuclear Deal faction was the largest and strongest Deep State faction…it wasn’t the only one.

    Pres. Trump has the anti-Iran Deep State faction on his side as well — which is mainly uniformed US military intelligence, see Gen Flynn and Adm Mike Rogers formally head at NSA — with a foreign intervention in the form of Saudi Arabia, the Israeli Mossad and Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu on Trump’s side of the ledger.

    Some in the the ‘coup supporting media’ would argue that this gets into fine shades of “what is treason” regards President Trump.

    This sort of argument  ignores the fact that the Obama/Iran Nuclear Deal Deep State faction — the DoJ, FBI, CIA, the State Department and a small faction in the senior civil service at the Defense Department — had the support of the EU political and IC elites as well as Iran’s Mullah’s & the Moslem Brotherhood in ramming home the Iran deal.  And that they

    1. Launched FBI Operation Crossfire Hurricane which;
    2. Illegally used Stefan Halper as a ‘Agent Provocateur’ to tag Trump campaign officials with the FISA tag of ‘Foreign intelligence asset’ to;
    3. Use the full powers of the Federal government to spy on the Trump for President campaign,  and government, plus
    4. Has had Asst. A.G. Rosenstein appoint Special Council Mueller and delegate to him — quite illegally mind you — full authority to conduct on-going FISA surveillance in a criminal investigation against US citizens.

    IMO, the bottom line up front here is that the Trump faction was and remains “constitutional” in its actions — his faction won an election and is following legal procedure.

    The legal terms of art for  “Iran Nuclear Deal” Deep State faction efforts engaged in to date are an ongoing seditious conspiracy to violate both the Trump Campaign and Trump Administration’s civil rights “Under color of Law” in order to overturn the results of the 2016 election.

    The short form for that is the Iran Nuclear Deal faction the Deep State are attempting a Coup d’etat.

    It gets worse.

    Whether or not President Trump finally wins over the Obama faction and takes down the Iranian Mullah’s.  The Obama’s Deep State Faction has done deep, lasting and permanent “Gramscian damage” (See link: http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=260  for an explanation of the term) to the American Republic, because they attempted a Coup De Etat against the tradition of peaceful succession of executive political power.

    We can no longer take for granted peaceful opposing political party transitions of power in the American political system.

     

     

    Posted in America 3.0, Americas, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, History, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Miscellaneous, National Security, USA | 27 Comments »

    Running a Nuclear Plant While Misunderstanding the Instruments Can be Hazardous

    Posted by David Foster on May 19th, 2018 (All posts by )

    …the same is true of establishing policy for a national economy and while misunderstanding the relevant economic indicators.

    It has often been asserted, by economists and others, that the decline in US manufacturing employment is largely a result of great strides in automation-based productivity, and that offshoring and imports have had relatively little effect…some have gone so far as to say that the offshoring/import effect on jobs has been practically irrelevant compared with that of automation.

    I was quite willing to believe that there have been great strides in manufacturing productivity, but the idea that offshoring & import effect on jobs was unimportant never sat very well with me…it seemed clear that the tens of millions of workers producing for export, in China and elsewhere, must have had a very material impact of American jobs, even given the greatly superior productivity of American factories to those located in most other countries.

    But now it seems that even the assumption of a broad-based productivity improvement in American manufacturing must be questioned.  Susan Houseman, an economist at the Upjohn Institute, has done some interesting work in unpacking the productivity numbers.  Her analysis indicates that a very high proportion of the measured growth in US manufacturing productivity actually reflects productivity growth in a single sector:  computers and electronic products.  Excluding this sector reduces to overall productivity growth for US manufacturing reduces annual productivity growth from about 3% to a little less than 1%.  Moreover:  Houseman argues that the productivity growth in that computers & electronics segment is less a result of automation-driven manufacturing productivity than it is a result of (a) better product design, and (b) the way the price deflators are calculated to turn nominal into real numbers.  And in all segments, the handling of imported intermediate goods (parts, subassemblies, and materials) changes the productivity estimates in ways that may be questionable:

    An article summarizing Houseman’s work, and an interview: Don’t blame the robots.

    Also, direct links to some of her work:

    2011:  Offshoring Bias in US Manufacturing

    2014:  Measuring Manufacturing–How the computer and semiconductor industries affect the numbers and perceptions

    2016:  Is American manufacturing in decline?

    I learned about this work via Marginal Revolution…a few relevant comments at the link.

     

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    Posted in Miscellaneous | 2 Comments »

    The Truth is Starting to Seep Out about the Spy in the Trump Campaign

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on May 19th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Way back during the transition from the Obama Administration, the evidence of illegal surveillance of the Trump Campaign began to appear. First, Admiral Mike Rogers warned Donald Trump, the president-elect, that he was under surveillance by the Obama Administration.

    June 2016: FISA request. The Obama administration files a request with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to monitor communications involving Donald Trump and several advisers. The request, uncharacteristically, is denied.

    October 2016: FISA request. The Obama administration submits a new, narrow request to the FISA court, now focused on a computer server in Trump Tower suspected of links to Russian banks. No evidence is found — but the wiretaps continue, ostensibly for national security reasons, Andrew McCarthy at National Review later notes. The Obama administration is now monitoring an opposing presidential campaign using the high-tech surveillance powers of the federal intelligence services.

    On Tuesday November 8th, 2016 the election was held. Results announced Wednesday November 9th, 2016.

    On Thursday November 17th, 2016, NSA Director Mike Rogers traveled to New York and met with President-Elect Donald Trump.

    Trump moved his transition team to his private golf course immediately.

    The other Mike Rogers, a Republican who was deeply compromised by the Benghazi matter, was quickly dropped from the Trump transition team.

    This worried the DNC mouthpiece WaPoo. Admiral Rogers probably also warned Trump about the former Intel Committee Chair.

    The FBI surveillance and CIA complicity has continued with the appointment of insider Mueller.

    Then they took down Mike Flynn who had once written a letter supporting the complaint of a woman named Robyn Gritz, an FBI agent who had worked with McCabe’s team, and accused him of sexual harassment.

    In 2013, she filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against her FBI supervisors alleging sexual discrimination and hostile work environment. In 2014, she amended her complaint by averring that she suffered “a hostile [work] environment, defamation of character through continued targeting by Andrew McCabe.”

    The FBI’s response claimed that she had become “underperforming, tardy to work, insubordinate, possibly mentally ill…”

    She was forced out.

    In May 2014, Flynn provided a letter on Pentagon stationery which stated that Gritz “was well-known, liked and respected in the military counter-terrorism community for her energy, commitment and professional capacity, and over the years worked in several interagency groups on counter-terrorism targeting initiatives.” He added, “Her work consistently produced outstanding results in the most challenging environments.”

    That is the back story of why the FBI went after General Flynn. Plus, of course, he had resisted Obama’s out reach to Muslims.

    Despite his underlings’ concerns, McCabe’s plan of retaliation against Flynn proceeded apace. According to Joseph diGenova, the newest member of President Trump’s legal team, McCabe set up Flynn for the interview that led to the general’s indictment for lying to the FBI. One of the agents who was tasked with this maneuver sought private legal advice.

    Now, the New York Times, at last, admits the presence of a spy in the Trump campaign. Of course, the Times’ version is the FBI/CIA version with enough spin to make the left feel justified.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Elections, Law Enforcement, National Security, Obama, Trump | 26 Comments »

    The Last Realist

    Posted by Grurray on May 17th, 2018 (All posts by )

  • ©2002 Everett Raymond Kinstler Source

  •  
     

    By now you’ve all seen, heard, and read that the great Tom Wolfe died this week. His social satire and sardonic wit carved out a distinctive path through post-modern America. Wolfe championed a literary style that was part journalism, part acerbic effervescence. Few (if any) recent writers were better able to craft stories by such vivid portrayals of particular people in particular places at particular times.

    Here is Tom Wolfe in one of his many interviews with William F. Buckley on Firing Line. Just two mid-century Yale Men parlaying over the Black Panthers, Bernstein, Balzac, Homo Ludens, and the Mets disappointing season.

    The question by the gentleman at around 39:45 is actually a good one and a complaint Wolfe faced his entire career. As a chronicler, he had a tendency to paint the events into flourishes that steered the situations toward the underlying themes that he was using to make his broader point. Conversely, as a novelist he was accused of conflating ordinary details into fantastic baroque ideals.

    There’s no denying that Wolfe was the master of expansive simplification. The principles of his style required a complete accounting of all the dimensions of the scene.

    The culmination of that manifesto was nowhere more on display than in his masterpiece The Bonfire of the Vanities. Here is snippet from chapter 5 following Kramer walking into the DA’s office.

    The guard buzzed Kramer through the gate, and Kramer’s running shoes
    squeaked on the marble floor. The guard gave them a dubious onceover. As
    usual, Kramer was carrying his leather shoes in an A&P shopping bag.
     
    Beyond the entryway, the level of grandeur in the District Attorney’s
    Office went up and down. The office of Weiss himself was bigger and showier,
    thanks to its paneled walls, than the Mayor of New York’s. The bureau chiefs,
    for Homicide, Investigations, Major Offenses, Supreme Court, Criminal Court,
    and Appeals, had their share of the paneling and the leather or school-of
    leather couches and the Contract Sheraton armchairs. But by the time you got
    down to an assistant district attorney, like Larry Kramer, you were looking at
    Good Enough for Government Work when it came to interior decoration.
     
    The two assistant district attorneys who shared the office with him, Ray
    Andriutti and Jimmy Caughey, were sitting sprawled back in the swivel chairs.
    There was just enough floor space in the room for three metal desks, three
    swivel chairs, four filing cabinets, an old coat stand with six savage hooks
    sticking out from it, and a table bearing a Mr. Coffee machine and a
    promiscuous heap of plastic cups and spoons and a gummy collage of paper
    napkins and white sugar envelopes and pink saccharine envelopes stuck to a
    maroon plastic tray with a high sweet-smelling paste composed of spilled coffee
    and Cremora powder. Both Andriutti and Caughey were sitting with their legs
    crossed in the same fashion. The left ankle was resting on top of the right
    knee, as if they were such studs, they couldn’t have crossed their legs any
    farther if they had wanted to. This was the accepted sitting posture of
    Homicide, the most manly of the six bureaus of the District Attorney’s Office.
     
    Both had their jackets off and hung with the perfect give-a-shit
    carelessness on the coatrack. Their shirt collars were unbuttoned, and their
    necktie knots were pulled down an inch or so. Andriutti was rubbing the back
    of his left arm with his right hand, as if it itched. In fact, he was feeling
    and admiring his triceps, which he pumped up at least three times a week by
    doing sets of French curls with dumbbells at the New York Athletic Club.
    Andriutti could afford to work out at the Athletic Club, instead of on a carpet
    between a Dracaena fragrans tub and a convertible couch, because he
    didn’t have a wife and a child to support in an $888-a-month ant colony in the
    West Seventies. He didn’t have to worry about his triceps and his deltoids and
    his lats deflating. Andriutti liked the fact that when he reached around behind
    one of his mighty arms with the other hand, it made the widest muscles of his
    back, the lats, the latissima dorsae, fan out until they practically split his
    shirt, and his pectorals hardened into a couple of mountains of pure muscle.
    Kramer and Andriutti were of the new generation, in which the terms triceps,
    deltoids, latissima dorsae, and pectoralis major were better known than the
    names of the major planets. Andriutti rubbed his triceps a hundred and twenty
    times a day, on the average.

    And that’s just the scene and status. The dialogue continues with the obligatory obscenities and a glimpse of “donkey loyalty”, as Wolfe calls the tribal ties that contrast the “Favor Bank” of the legal system.

    Rest in Peace Tom Wolfe, and thank you for your works that contributed to our awareness and understanding of this ever perplexing world.

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    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Civil Society, Culture, Leftism, Lit Crit, Obits, Rhetoric, Society, Urban Issues, USA | 11 Comments »

    “Hey, Google. . .”

    Posted by Jonathan on May 15th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Q: How old is the President?

    A: Barack Obama is 56 years old.

      

    Try it for yourself and report back.

     

    Posted in Leftism, Politics, Tech | 7 Comments »

    The Worst Day At Work, Ever

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on May 13th, 2018 (All posts by )

    The absolute nadir of bad days at work was sketched briefly in a recent book about the Revolutionary War battle of Saratoga – a decisive turning point in that war. There is nothing much new in Dean Snow’s 1777: Tipping Point at Saratoga, save that the author has gone through just about every set of archives, memoirs, and reminisces existing, along with an exhaustive survey of the site itself, and produced an hour by hour account. No mean feat, especially since keeping track of time was an inexact science. (And would be for at least another eighty years, when the developing railways, with requirements for exact timetables over long distances, and necessary scheduling of use on single track routes made it mandatory that scrupulous attention be paid to these matters.)

    Briefly, that campaign was series of battles, skirmishes, and clashes on the banks of the Hudson River where it passes through upstate New York; the culmination of a grand plan to slice the rebellious colonies in – if not half – at least thirds. The supreme British commander, General William Howe (rumored to be a backstairs cousin to George III, his granny having had a productive affair with George I), was pleasantly ensconced in New York, where he was assisted in his revolution-suppression duties by General Henry Clinton. The British forces had chased the rebellious colonials out of New York some months previously. All the notable cities of the Colonies were ocean ports; Boston, New York, Charleston, Savannah. Only Philadelphia was an exception – and it sat on the inland reaches of the Delaware River. Still a port – but far inland from the Atlantic Ocean. In any case, the grand scheme was to split off New England from the other rebellious colonies by coming down from Canada with an overwhelming force of British regular troops and hired German mercenaries.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Americas, Book Notes, Diversions, History, USA, War and Peace | 19 Comments »

    A Brief History…

    Posted by Jonathan on May 11th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Michael Kennedy’s A Brief History of Disease, Science and Medicine is now available on Kindle.

    It joins Michael’s more recent book, War Stories: 50 Years in Medicine, which is a fascinating and informative read.

     

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Medicine, Personal Narrative | 6 Comments »

    History Friday: The Most Incredible Round the World Air Journey

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on May 11th, 2018 (All posts by )

    OK, so it was linked on Insty, but this was an incredible read: of the Pan-Am commercial flight which got caught on the wrong side of the world after Pearl Harbor, and had to go around the long way to get home again, with pluck, luck and sheer stubborn inventiveness.
    Part One
    Part Two
    Part Three
    Enjoy!
    I particularly liked the part where they visited a public library, searching for relevant information.

     

    Posted in Anglosphere, Holidays | 2 Comments »

    A Neglected but Significant Anniversary

    Posted by David Foster on May 10th, 2018 (All posts by )

    (rerun, with updates)

    ‘When the crocus blossoms,’ hiss the women in Berlin,
    ‘He will press the button, and the battle will begin.
    When the crocus blossoms, up the German knights will go,
    And flame and fume and filthiness will terminate the foe…
    When the crocus blossoms, not a neutral will remain.’

    (A P Herbert, Spring Song, quoted in To Lose a Battle, by Alistair Horne)

    On May 10, 1940, German forces launched an attack against Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Few people among the Allies imagined that France would collapse in only six weeks: Churchill, for example, had a high opinion of the fighting qualities of the French army. But collapse is what happened, of course, and we are still all living with the consequences. General Andre Beaufre, who in 1940 was a young Captain on the French staff, wrote in 1967:

    The collapse of the French Army is the most important event of the twentieth century.

    If it’s an exaggeration, it’s not much of one. If France had held up to the German assault as effectively as it was expected to do, World War II would probably have never reached the nightmare levels that it in fact did reach. The Hitler regime might well have fallen. The Holocaust would never have happened. Most likely, there would have been no Communist takeover of Eastern Europe.

    This campaign has never received much attention in America; it tends to be regarded as something that happened before the “real” war started. Indeed, many denizens of the Anglosphere seem to believe that the French basically gave up without a fight–which is a considerable exaggeration given the French casualties of around 90,000 killed and 200,000 wounded. But I think the fall of France deserves serious study, and that some of the root causes of the defeat are scarily relevant to today’s world.

    First, I will very briefly summarize the campaign from a military standpoint, and will then shift focus to the social and political factors involved in the defeat.

    France’s border can be thought of in terms of three sectors. In the north, the border with with Belgium. Early French military planning had been based on the idea of a strong cooperative relationship with Belgium: however, in the years immediately prior to 1940, that country had adopted a position of neutrality and had refused to do any joint military planning with France. In the south, the border was protected by the forts of the Maginot Line (the southern flank of which was anchored by mountainous territory bordering on Switzerland and Italy.) In between these regions was the country of the Ardennes. It was heavily wooded and with few roads, and the French high command did not believe it was a feasible attack route for strong forces–hence, the Maginot Line had not been extended to cover it, and the border here was protected only with field fortifications.

    The French plan was based on the assumption that the main German attack would come through Belgium. Following the expected request from the Belgian government for assistance, strong French forces were to advance into that country and counterattack the Germans. In the Maginot and Ardennes sectors, holding actions only were envisaged. While the troops manning the Maginot were of high quality, the Ardennes forces included a large proportion of middle-aged reservists, and had been designated as lower-class units.

    The opening moves seemed to fit expectations. The Germans launched a powerful attack through Belgium, and the Belgian government made the expected requests for help. Andre Beaufre:

    Doumenc sent me at once to Vincennes to report to General Gamelin (the French supreme commander). I arrived at 6.30 AM at the moment when the order had just been given for the huge machine to go into operation: the advance into Belgium. Gamelin was striding up and down the corridor in his fort, humming, with a pleased and martial air which I had never seen before. It has been said since that he expected defeat, but I could see no evidence of it at the time.

    There was heavy fighting in Belgium…but the German attack on this country had served to mask their real point of maximum effort. Early in the morning of the 13th, it became clear that massive German forces were moving through the Ardennes, which had turned out to not be so impassable after all. A massive German air attack paved the way for a crossing of the Meuse river and the capture of the town of Sedan. French officers were stunned by the speed of the German advance–they had expected delays while the Germans brought up heavy artillery, not understanding that dive bombers could play a role similar to that traditionally played by artillery. And the bombing was psychologically-shattering, especially for inexperienced troops. The famous historian Marc Bloch had been exposed to many artillery barrages while fighting in the First World War: in reflecting on his service in 1940, he observed that he found aerial bombing much more frightening even though it was, objectively, probably less dangerous. (Bloch later joined the Resistance and was captured by the Germans and shot.)

    The French command never really recovered from the unexpected thrust through the Ardennes and the fall of Sedan. Beginning on May 27, the British evacuated their troops at Dunkirk. On June 14, Prime Minister Paul Reynaud resigned. He was succeeded by Philippe Petain, a hero of the First World War, who immediately sought terms with the Germans. The “armistice”–basically a surrender–was signed on June 20. By Hitler’s order, it was signed in the same railway car where the armistice of 1918 had been signed. Hitler was present in person for the ceremony: William Shirer was fifty yards away, and was studying his expression through binoculars: It is afire with scorn, anger, hate, revenge, triumph.

    Many military factors were involved in the defeat–obsolete doctrine on armored forces, inadequate use of radio communications, a strange and cumbersome military organization structure. But the roots of the 1940 debacle are not to be found only–or perhaps even primarily–in strictly military matters. A major role was played by certain characteristics of French society and politics of the time–and some of these factors are spookily similar to some of the things that are going on in America today.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, War and Peace | 22 Comments »

    Don’t Trust Numbers Without Understanding What They Actually Mean

    Posted by David Foster on May 9th, 2018 (All posts by )

    It seems that the German railroad Deutsche Bahn excludes those trains that break down en-route (or that never even start) when calculating arrival statistics…and there are a lot of such trains.  (via Cold Spring Shops)

    So it would be pretty inappropriate to compare DB’s schedule performance, calculated in this way, with the schedule performance of a railroad that did include broken-down or never started trains in the late-arrival category.

    There are a lot of cases in which statistics may not be actually comparable in the way that they are assumed to be…for example, it seems that the US calculates infant mortality in a different way from most other countries, owing to the different treatment of premature births.

    Journalists, in general, fail completely in explaining what the numbers that they are citing actually mean…probably because in most cases, they don’t understand themselves.

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    Posted in Media, Science | 16 Comments »

    Preference Cascades and Past Elections

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on May 7th, 2018 (All posts by )

    So, I meant to write something sarcastic and slashing about … whatever over the last weekend, but I got distracted by life, and by a couple of different news reports – one of them being that Kanye West apparently has gotten in touch with his inner conservative and decided – for the moment – to come out enthusiastically for Trump. While not a particular fan of his brand of pop music and acknowledging that his judgement may not be all that – the man married a Kardashian, for g*d’s sake – I have never heard of anyone calling him a stupid man. Talented – yes, fabulously successful, and financially well-rewarded for exercising those talents; there must be more to him than pure dumb luck. Lamentable as it is to me that present-day celebrities wield more social influence than is good for them, and for us … that someone with that much influence in the black community is pointing out some self-evident truths must count for something. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, Conservatism, Culture, Current Events, Obama, Politics, Trump | 21 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on May 5th, 2018 (All posts by )

    cinco mayos

    Chicagoboyz celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

    UPDATE: The true story of Sinko de Mayo, via commenter Gringo.

     

    Posted in Holidays, Humor | 9 Comments »

    A Disturbingly-Declining Rate of Return in Pharma R&D?

    Posted by David Foster on May 5th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Here’s an interesting analysis

     

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Science | 8 Comments »

    Citizens, Subjects, and Audience

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on April 30th, 2018 (All posts by )

    I am distracted this week, through having to oversee and assist with a spot of home renovation, and the launch of Book Six of the Luna City Chronicles – One Half Dozen of Luna City, which is available as of today in print, Kindle and other ebook formats – although by no means have I not paid attention to various news hiccups which caught my fleeting attention as they went past.

    As a parent, I can’t help but be sympathetic and supportive of little Alfie Evans’ parents, whose medical situation was as heartbreaking as it was mysterious and likely terminal. Just as I cannot help being viciously cynical regarding the decision by hospital and National Health Service administrators to set the poor tot on the so-called Liverpool Care pathway. Over the strenuous objections of his parents, the church which his parents apparently belonged to, any number of advocates for the rights of parents – all life support cut off, including oxygen, nourishment and water, with the powers of the State and its police minions standing by to enforce the dictates of the state. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Anglosphere, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Current Events, Health Care, Media, The Press, Trump | 38 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading and Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on April 27th, 2018 (All posts by )

    An MBA student who was raised in Communist China reads Hayek.

    Has Silicon Valley hit peak arrogance?

    Is high testosterone inversely correlated with hedge-fund performance?

    Anti-Semitism and the Democratic Party.

    A manufacturing engineer looks at Tesla manufacturing.  Related:  Elon Musk now thinks his use of robots to build the Model 3 was excessive.

    (I wonder if Musk was aware of the history of Roger Smith and the robots at GM when he established his manufacturing strategy.)

    15 facts about Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party.

     

     

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    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Judaism, Leftism, Tech | 20 Comments »

    180 Years of Transatlantic Steam

    Posted by David Foster on April 22nd, 2018 (All posts by )

    On April 8, 1838, the steamship Great Western..the first steamship to be purpose-built for the transatlantic passenger traffic…left Bristol for New York City. Four days earlier, though, another steamship, the Sirius, had left Cork for the same destination. Sirius had not been designed for the Atlantic run; it was a small channel steamer which had been chartered by the rivals of Great Western’s owners. This competitive enterprise had encountered delays in the construction of their own Atlantic liner, the British Queen, and had chartered Sirius to keep Great Western from scoring a win in the PR battle. Sirius did arrive at New York first, on April 23, but Great Western came in only 12 hours later…its crossing of a little more than 15 days was the fastest ever from England to America.

    There were earlier crossings that had been at least partly steam-powered: the American ship Savannah in 1819 (which actually used only sails for most of the voyage), and the Dutch Curacao and the Canadian Royal William, which made their crossings in 1827 and 1833 respectively. But it was the Great Western vs Sirius race which marked the beginning of steam passenger and mail service across the Atlantic.

    The paddle wheels and auxiliary sailing rigs of the early steamers gave way to screw propellers and total reliance on steam, and reciprocating steam engines were later supplanted by steam turbines…which in turn have now largely been replaced by diesels and in some cases gas turbines. Aircraft carriers and submarines still use steam turbines, though, with the steam generation done by nuclear energy rather than the burning of coal or oil.

    Here’s the British actress Fanny Kemble, writing circa 1882, in annotation of her years-earlier comments about the difficulties and emotional pain caused by slow communications between the continents:

    To those who know the rate of intercourse between Europe and America now, these expressions of the painful sense of distance from my country and friends, under which I suffered, must seem almost incomprehensible,—now, when to go to Europe seems to most Americans the easiest of summer trips, involving hardly more than a week’s sea voyage; when letters arrive almost every other day by some of the innumerable steamers flying incessantly to and fro, and weaving, like living shuttles, the woof and warp of human communication between the continents; and the submarine telegraph shoots daily tidings from shore to shore of that terrible Atlantic, with swift security below its storms. But when I wrote this to my friend, no words were carried with miraculous celerity under the dividing waves; letters could only be received once a month, and from thirty to thirty-seven days was the average voyage of the sailing packets which traversed the Atlantic. Men of business went to and fro upon their necessary affairs, but very few Americans went to Europe, and still fewer Europeans went to America, to spend leisure, or to seek pleasure; and American and English women made the attempt still seldomer than the men. The distance between the two worlds, which are now so near to each other, was then immense.

    (The quote is one of several passages cited in my post Further Fannyisms)

    Also: the ultimate development of the steam-turbine-powered passenger liner was represented by the SS United States. This beautiful ship has so far managed to avoid the the scrapper’s’ torches…the SS United States Conservancy is working to raise sufficient funds to preserve the vessel on an ongoing basis.

    Related: 301 years of steam power

     

    Posted in Britain, History, Tech, Tradeoffs, USA | 8 Comments »

    The Custom of the Country

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on April 21st, 2018 (All posts by )

    I always had rather a soft spot in me for Barbara Bush; the exemplary old-school upper-middle-class good wife, with her triple strand of pearls, and the way that she didn’t give a damn about going prematurely white. That was the way she was, and she didn’t give two pins. Class – that’s what she had, the class of a previous generation; a class now belatedly appreciated and mourned, now that the upholders and exemplars of it are almost now gone from between us. Among my transitory friends in Korea was a security policeman who had come off the White House protection squad at the end of the senior Bush administration: he adored Barbara, who called him Timmy – possibly the only person on earth besides his mother who did so, as he was one of these six-and-a-half foot tall human hazards in traffic, who looked rather like an Irish-Anglo version of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
    So – I took brief note of her passing; yes, good to die at home, refusing anything but palliative care, among family, and those whom hold you in affection. I am certain that Timmy – wherever he is now – is riffling through his fond memories of his particular First Lady and drinking a toast to her. A good long life, well lived, a loving marriage, well-adjusted and successful children, and grandchildren; what more could a brief life on this earth offer? I also drink a toast to Barbara Bush, and convey my sincerest condolences to those who loved her, a circle which extends far beyond those of her blood family. (I wish, though, that she had not been so catty about Sarah Palin, but I guess she was just going along with the old-line Establishment GOP crowd.)

    This appears to be a simple social courtesy too much for a certain professor of … something or other at a California State University. Oh – it’s the one in Fresno. Fresno – like Bakersfield, it’s own punishment. (Yes, I am letting my latent California snobbishness show. Yes, there are places in California too infra dig for words. Fresno is one of them, although it did feature in a hilarious and all-star parody of 1980s dramas like Dynasty and Dallas. I continue.) The tweets posted by this so-called professor (of what, pray tell? Oh, dear – of English.) Couldn’t prove it through the content of her tweets, which largely appear barely literate speak for themselves – mostly a narrative of vicious ignorance and malice. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Current Events, Customer Service, Education, Leftism, Media, Society | 13 Comments »